It’s safe to say we all expected TCU basketball to build on its NIT Championship from a season ago. With the top six scorers all returning, the addition of transfers like Kouat Noi, Ahmed Hamdy, and Shawn Olden to active duty, and the No. 3 recruiting class in the Big 12 for 2017, hope and excitement surrounded the program.
But even then, this level of success early - a 10-0 record, and a 15 game winning streak dating back to the start of the NIT - would have been difficult to predict.
After all, the Frogs are just in their second season with Jamie Dixon at the helm, and there’s still plenty of momentum left to be gained from a fan perspective, as evidenced by early home game attendance numbers.
But here the Frogs are, with the longest win streak in the country, one of just nine remaining perfect records, and two big recent wins over SMU and Nevada in their back pocket. Here are a few takeaways from the first ten games of the season.
1. The Frogs are shooting lights out as a team
As a team, TCU is shooting 53.1% from the floor (3rd best in the country), 43.1% from three point range (8th best in the country), and 70.6% from the free throw line. Six Horned Frogs are shooting over 50% from the floor, and four (Vladimir Brodziansky, Desmond Bane, Ahmed Hamdy, and Kenrich Williams) are shooting over 60% from the floor this season.
Five Horned Frogs are shooting over 40% from three point range, all of whom have attempted at least 23 threes, led by Desmond Bane at 55.8% (24-43).
Five Frogs are averaging 10+ points per game, led by Kenrich Williams at 14.2 points per game.
This incredible shooting has helped TCU average over 87 points per game (23rd in the country), a far cry from the 55 points per game TCU averaged in their first season in the Big 12. The 87 points/game is good for third-best in the Big 12, behind Oklahoma (93.2) and Kansas (88.1).
2. Kenrich Williams is even better, if that’s possible
He’s TCU’s heartbeat, and he’s once again averaging a double double, with 14.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Williams leads the team in minutes per game, at just over 33, and is also second on the team in assists with 37. He earns his nickname of Kenny Hustle every time he steps on the court.
Dixon mentioned after the SMU game that people are starting to notice Williams, and that scouts have been by to see him play, both at TCU and on the road. It seems like Williams could become the 20th Frog ever to be drafted, and the first TCU player drafted since Lee Nailon in 1999.
3. Jaylen Fisher is emerging as an elite guard
Fisher’s improvement from his freshman to sophomore campaign is meteoric. He’s shooting just shy of 50% from the floor (39% a season ago) and he leads the team with 61 assists (6.1 per game), which is on pace to shatter his 140 assist mark a season ago.
Fisher’s vision and lights-out shooting are two massive reasons for TCU’s hot start, especially when you consider that Alex Robinson has missed two games, and been limited in several more, due to foot/ankle injuries this season.
4. TCU has incredible depth
Ahmed Hamdy, Kouat Noi, and whoever isn’t starting out of Jaylen Fisher and Alex Robinson means that at any point in time, TCU has three guys on the bench capable of coming on the court and playing significant, impactful minutes.
Hamdy has been an absolute revelation backing up Vladimir Brodziansky this season. The big grad transfer from VCU is averaging 6.9 points and 3.2 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game. Hamdy is shooting 62.8% from the floor this season, thanks to his footwork and silky smooth moves around the rim, paired with his brute strength and willingness to bang in the paint.
Meanwhile, Noi is shooting 56% from the floor, including 48.1% from three point range, and his ability to stretch the floor creates major defensive problems for opponents. Noi has seen some serious crunch time minutes already this season, as he was on the court in the waning minutes of the win over SMU.
5. Vlad is influencing defenses with his mere presence
It’s been obvious in all ten games the Frogs have played: teams are focused on stopping Big Bad Vlad. Opposing defenses are sagging in the lane, running double teams at him, and generally swarming every time he touches the ball.
It’s a testament to the improvement Vlad has made that he can do two things he struggled with last year - 1) shoot over the double team, and 2) pass out of the double team.
Say what you want about any of TCU’s shooters, the Frogs’ ability to move the ball inside-out with Vlad is one of the biggest keys to TCU’s offense. He’s been a much better passer this season, and he (and Hamdy) have made life miserable by distributing the ball well to the open man.
6. TCU is passing the ball really, really well
The Frogs are averaging 19.2 assists per game, with Jaylen Fisher distributing 6.1 per game by himself. Ball movement has been impressive through ten games, and it’s creating open looks for some of TCU’s sharpshooters, including Desmond Bane.
The Frogs’ 19.2 assists/game is good for 7th best in the country, and second best in the Big 12 behind Kansas (20.1).
7. Speaking of defense, TCU definitely has room to grow
The Frogs are 9th in the Big 12 in scoring defense, allowing 72.4 points per game. The Frogs are dead last in the conference when it comes to FG% allowed, too, at 44.7%. Sure, TCU’s offense has propped up the defense quite a bit over the first ten games, but crunch time stops are going to be important once we enter Big 12 play, and the defense will need to tighten the screws a bit.
8. JD Miller has improved tremendously
JD Miller has earned a spot in the starting lineup after being a bench guy a season ago, and he’s responded by averaging 10.4 points per game, to go with 5.4 rebounds, while shooting over 50% from the floor. His versatility and ability to shoot the three-ball has allowed the Frogs to space the floor and move the ball around, putting a lot of stress on opposing defenses.
Defensively, Miller has the ability to guard smaller guys because of his lateral quickness, or he can bang in the paint a bit with some bigger bodies, as support for Vlad and Hamdy.
9. This team could compete for a Big 12 championship
I’ve watched an excessive amount of Big 12 basketball so far this season, and I have to say, this TCU squad is about as complete a team in the conference. Don’t take it from me, though. Take it from CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein.
Right now, Horned Frogs look like most complete team in league. https://t.co/8ZgMoUVszz— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 7, 2017
That being said, every team in the big 12 is going to be a tough out this year, because it’s unequivocally the best basketball conference in the country. It’s also important to note that TCU has never won more than six games in conference play since joining the Big 12.
However, the depth and leadership on this team is undeniable, and all signs are pointing to this team being near the top of the standings when things are all said and done.
10. TCU is an NCAA Tournament-level team
ESPN has TCU tabbed as a 7-seed currently in their bracketology predictions. CBS Sports had TCU as a 9-seed before the season even got under way. If TCU is competitive in the Big 12 like we hope they will be at this point, the question won’t be whether or not TCU makes the tournament, it’ll be about where TCU will be seeded.